Auxiliary languages are artificial or constructed languages created with the intent of facilitating communication between peoples who would otherwise have difficulty communicating. They are separate from lingua francas, which are natural or organic languages that become dominant for one reason or another as means of communication between speakers of other languages. While this page isn't intended to act as a phrasebook for any particular language, it may help to introduce the concept and possible benefits of picking up – or at least looking into – an international auxiliary language.
Why would someone speak an auxiliary language?
The idea of an artificial language may seem eccentric, unnecessary, or even foolish to some people. After all, why bother creating or synthesizing an entirely new language for inter-lingual communication when there are already languages that are widely spoken and learned enough to allow communication between speakers of languages that aren't mutually intelligible?
Perhaps the most convincing answer lies in the relation of values and hegemony to the languages we speak. While English, French, Chinese, or Spanish are some of the most widely spoken and learned languages in the world today, some people may object to their ubiquity on the grounds that having everyone learn a given lingua franca imposes the values and culture associated with that language upon those who must learn it. In contrast to lingua francas, international auxiliary languages have few to no native speakers (a few thousand in the case of Esperanto), are not unique or indigenous to a particular territory or polity, aren't intended to replace or phase out any language, and are designed to be easy to learn, without the cultural subtleties and irregularities that are both a blessing and a curse of natural languages.
Common or famous international auxiliary languages
- Solresol (probably the first artificial auxiliary language)
- Esperanto (by far the most famous and most widely spoken IAL)
- Ido (attempt at reforming Esperanto)
- Volapük (partially superseded by Esperanto)
How many people speak auxiliary languages worldwide?
Different auxiliary languages have risen and fallen since many were created in the 19th century. At its peak in the 1880s, Volapük had about 100,000 speakers, though now it has only a few dozen fluent speakers. Interlingua is spoken actively by over a thousand people worldwide, though it is taught and learned on every continent, possibly because its naturalistic character makes it easy to learn and understand for speakers of Romance languages. Esperanto is by far the most successful international auxiliary language, boasting over two million speakers around the world, far outdoing any of its predecessors like Volapük or its attempted successors like Ido (which has only a few thousand speakers). Many thousands more study and learn Esperanto all around the world.
The limited number of speakers is the main practical factor that limits the opportunity for a traveler to use an auxiliary language: For every person who speaks any auxiliary language, there are 500 others who speak Mandarin Chinese, 250 who speak English or Hindi, 200 who speak Spanish, and 150 who speak Russian and Arabic.
Special occasions for international auxiliary languages
- Esperanto Youth Week (Esperanto: Junulara E-Semajno)
- Panamerican Esperanto Congress (Esperanto: Tut-Amerika Kongreso de Esperanto)
- Esperanto USA Conventions (Esperanto: Landaj Kongresoj)